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Adalbert of Prague

ADALBERT OF PRAGUE (Czech, Woitech, “Comfort of the Army”): An early German missionary, sometimes improperly called “the Apostle of the Slavs” or “of the Prussians”; b. about 950; murdered Apr. 23, 997. He was the son of a rich Czech nobleman named Slavenik, connected with the royal house of Saxony. He was educated at Magdeburg, but on the death of Adalbert (981), first archbishop of that place, whose name he had taken at confirmation, he returned home and was ordained priest by Thietmar, the first bishop of Prague, whom he succeeded two years later. He received investiture at Verona from Emperor Otho II., his kinsman, and was consecrated by Willigis, archbishop of Mainz, his metropolitan. His troubles soon began. The attempt to execute strictly what he conceived to be his episcopal duties brought him into conflict with his countrymen, who were hard to wean from their heathen customs. After five years of struggle, he left his diocese, intending to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; but after a sojourn at Monte Cassino, he entered the monastery of St. Boniface at Rome, where he led a singularly devoted and ascetic life. In 992, however, he was required by the pope and his metropolitan to return to Prague. The conflict with stubbornly persistent heathen customs—polygamy, witchcraft, slavery—proved as hard as ever, and he once more left his diocese, returning, after a missionary tour in Hungary, to the peaceful seclusion of his Roman cloister.

In 996 Willigis visited Rome and obtained fresh orders for Adelbert to return to his see, with permission to go and preach to the heathen only in case his flock should absolutely refuse to receive him. He went north in company with the young emperor, Otho III., and in the next spring, through Poland, approached Bohemia. Things had grown worse than ever there: his family had fallen under suspicion of treason through their connections with Germany and Poland; and the greater part of them had been put to death. His offer to return to Prague having been contumeliously rejected, he 32 felt himself free to turn to the work which he desired among the heathen Prussians. Here he was killed by a pagan priest before he had succeeded in accomplishing much. His body was brought by the Duke of Poland and buried at Gnesen, whence it was taken to Prague in 1039.

(A. Hauck.)

Bibliography: J. Canaparius, Vita Adalberti, in MGH, Script., iv. (1841) 574-620; Bruno, Vita Adalberti, ib. pp. 595-612; Miracula Adelberti, ib. 613-616; Passio Adalberti, ib., xv. part 2 (1888), 705-708; De St. Adalberto, ib. pp. 1177-84; MPL, cxxxvii. 859-888 (life and miracles); H. Zeissberg, Die polnische Geschichtsschreibung des Mittelalters, pp. 19 sqq., Leipsic, 1873; H. G. Voigt, Adalbert von Prag, Berlin, 1898; Hauck, KD, iii. (1906) 1041 sqq.

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